Much like Silvio Berlusconi’s infamous bunga bunga parties, the upcoming Italian election is proving to be just as wild and unpredictable. Italians will take to the polls on Sunday March 4, 2018 to elect a new Prime Minister following the late-2016 resignation of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The divisive politics plaguing the various party platforms combined with major economic instability has led many observers to fear that the general election will end with a hung parliament and no clear winner. This is significant because Italy is Europe’s fourth largest economy and currently boasts a €2.3 trillion national deficit, which represents 135 per cent of its GDP and more than 20 per cent of the eurozone’s total. While calls for an Itexit, that is, an Italian exit from the European Union, have faded in recent months, the county’s politics have increasingly seen a surge of populism, persistent deficits, a still-stagnant economy and shaky banking sector.
The Guardian has reported that, “Italy is seen as a risk not just to itself but to the EU.”
An inconclusive electoral result will surely only add to the existing instability of the nation, which is underpinned by the fact that 30 to 40 per cent of Italians are still undecided, with less than a month until the election. Currently, the Five Star Movement party led by Luigi Di Maio is polling in the lead, followed closely by a coalition of right-wing parties assembled by Berlusconi.
Immigration remains a hot and divisive priority on many political agendas, and has come to the forefront since the shooting of six people from Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria by a far-right extremist earlier this month. Berlusconi has referred to Italy’s state of immigration as a “social bomb ready to explode” and, as part of his campaign, has promised to deport more than 600,000 illegal immigrants should his coalition assume office. However, it should be noted that due to a recent tax-fraud conviction, Berlusconi himself is barred from standing.
Italy has remained a hotbed for immigration and asylum on Europe’s southern border, as many make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa.
The nation’s economy has seen a long and slow decline, which has arguably had the greatest impact on its young people as one-third of youth under-25 remains unemployed. The Italian south has fallen to the clutches of corruption and mob activity for many years, particularly now under today’s harsh economic circumstances.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella has called for party leaders to remain realistic in their campaign promises. However, with such controversial issues at play, candidates—particularly the far-right coalitions—have taken a page directly from Berlusconi’s nationalist playbook and have entered their chance to win the same “modern populist political game” that the world has already seen throughout the last year.
The charts below outline each party, its candidate and major policy points.
The Right Wing:
The Left Wing:
With 27 to 29 per cent of the popular vote, the Five Star Movement is currently the single largest party in the lead. While they have in the past been vocally against forming a coalition with any of the other parties, sentiments have changed in recent weeks given the ambiguity of the interim electoral results. Not far behind is Berlusconi’s coalition with 16 to 18 per cent of the vote. Regional Sicilian elections in November saw the Forza Italy party win 40 per cent of the vote, leaving the Democrats with less than 20 per cent. Similarly, results from regional elections in June saw the centre-right parties win largely over the Five Star Movement.
With a large chunk of the Italian population still woefully undecided, a coalition government appears inevitable. However, given the stark left-right divide, surely any patchwork government will spell difficult negotiations, stagnated legislation and an inability to pass any kind of structural reform.